WordPress 2.8 Out, Raises Usability Bar for Drupal 7What ho! Is that a new version of WordPress (news, site)  we spy?

The answer is yes. But of course, you probably knew already; WordPress 2.8 was released for immediate download toward the end of last week. Just like most seasoned blogging platform fans, we’ve come to expect big things from the system. This time, the newest version not only fits the usual bill, it also presents some pretty stiff competition for other platforms like Drupal.

World, Meet Baker

Named after the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker, Wordpress 2.8 is certainly all jazzed up. After some tinkering, a few tweaks here and there, and over 790 bug fixes, “Baker” is being described as “a nice fit and finish release for WordPress with improvements to themes, widgets, taxonomies, and overall speed.” Let's look at the major updates in detail:

  • Speed: A change in the way WordPress handles style and scripting has reportedly made the system way faster.
  • Redesigned widgets interface: For everyone who’s ever been frustrated with widgets, WordPress 2.8 has attempted to answer your prayers. The new interface allows users to do edit widgets on the fly, have multiple copies of the same widget, drag and drop widgets between sidebars, and save inactive widgets without losing all of their settings. Additionally, developers now have access to a spiced up API for creating widgets.
  • Theme Browser: This feature is where it’s at. With the new theme browser users can search for themes based on colors, their preferred number of columns, and a fixed or flexible width—all from the dashboard. Whatever filters through based on these criteria can then be selected and installed with a single click of the mouse. For the tweak-happy, (that is, those of you that like to edit themes and plugins yourself), version 2.8 features a new CodePress editor, which gives syntax highlighting to the previously-plain editor.

Want to see these features in action? Check out the video:



Drupal's Baked?

There are more fun features, of course. To be exact, over 180 changes, upgrades and improvements are along for the 2.8 ride, but let’s go back to that nifty little theme browser, and what we think it means for the other fish in the sea.

Coincidentally, just a day before WordPress announced their new baby, Jacob Singh, a member of the Acquia staff, noted on the team’s blog the problems with installing or editing themes in Drupal. He writes: “When the average Drupal site owner without ssh, cvs and other geek gadgets wants to update modules on or themes on their Drupal site, they currently have to do the following:

  1. Go update status and see the mod is out of date
  2. Take the site offline
  3. Make a backup (if they can)
  4. Know where to find the module on d.o., download the tarball
  5. Unzip the tarball
  6. Remove the current directory
  7. Use FTP to upload the new directory
  8. Run update.php”

Eight whole steps is a far cry from WordPress’ new plug-and-play functionality, isn’t it? Not to mention the amount of technical know-how it requires. For the technically challenged, it appears that working with themes in Acquia’s Drupal is akin to scaling K2: scary and very, very difficult. This is certainly a major turn off for the growing number of automation fanboys and fangirls.

Like we’ve said before, “If Web developers are going to be eliminated…it's going to be courtesy of hosted (SaaS) solutions with pluggable component architectures and point and click presentation themes.”

This nugget of knowledge is in no way beyond team Drupal. To prove it, Singh also makes mention of a project he’s working on called Plugin Manager (for details, head on over here). Unfortunately, working such a tool into Drupal’s core has presented some issues, which Singh also covers. But hey, at least they’re trying.

Meanwhile, WordPress is still one step and full steam ahead, and their developments will certainly push the other guys to either kick out some magic of their own or fall to the wayside. Do you think they stand a chance?